I hope you had a safe and enjoyable July 4th holiday! The 2021 special legislative session has now adjourned. We delivered a complete new two-year state budget that will help Minnesotans move beyond the challenges of the past year and succeed into the future. The COVID-19 pandemic made the path to a final agreement more complicated, but I’m pleased we delivered a budget that funds the many things important to Minnesotans while avoiding an unnecessary government shutdown. Here’s an update on some of the bipartisan budget packages we’ve passed.
The public safety and judiciary budget funds our courts, public defenders, Department of Corrections, Department of Human Rights, Department of Public Safety, and more. This bipartisan bill included several bills I chief authored, including an overhaul of our criminal sexual conduct statutes to provide more justice for survivors and close the intoxication loophole; “Sheyla’s Law,” a constituent-driven bill to transfer sexual assault investigations within the Minnesota National Guard to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; reform of our civil asset forfeiture law, supported by conservative and progressive groups, to limit seizure of a person’s property and create a fairer system; and a bill brought to me by the DWI task force to make our roads safer with expanded use of ignition interlock.
As a member of this conference committee, my House colleagues and I worked hard to include criminal justice system reform measures in this bill. These included new regulations on no-knock warrants; an early warning system to ensure the peace officer licensing board can discipline problem officers; and Travis’s Law, which will help ensure trained crisis teams can respond to calls for mental health assistance rather than police officers. By making significant reforms to Minnesota’s fines and fees structure and requiring personal circumstances to be considered by the court, the budget decriminalizes poverty. More work remains to be done on reform measures, and I am committed to continuing that work in the interim and next session.
The bipartisan E-12 Education budget contains historic investments in Minnesota students. The budget increases the per pupil funding formula by 2.45 percent this coming year and another 2 percent the following year, a strong investment that will help students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget also protects voluntary pre-K programming, addresses school districts’ special education and English learner cross-subsidies, and invests in strategies to recruit more teachers of color and American Indian teachers.
Minnesota students, teachers, and families experienced tremendous difficulties during the pandemic. All Minnesota children deserve a quality education from cradle to career, and our bipartisan education agreement makes big investments to help all of our students realize their full potential. I’m proud it included my Seizure Smart School bill to require schools to create action plans and provide training to ensure students with epilepsy can be safe and supported at school.
The bipartisan HHS budget moves us closer to making sure every Minnesotan has access to the care they need to experience a healthy future and a strong quality of life. The budget also improves the quality of life for people with disabilities, delivering overdue wage increases for Personal Care Attendants to help recruit and retain dedicated workers in these critical roles. I’m also excited the budget included two provisions I authored. The first invests in customized living quality improvement grants to help home and community-based service providers innovate and provide more efficient, higher quality services. The other bill – developed in partnership with people with disabilities and advocates – will create a more person-centered approach to disability services.
The bipartisan Environment & Natural Resources budget invests in our responsibility to preserve the outdoors for future generations, ensuring Minnesotans can count on clean air, water, and land. The bill includes a prohibition on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging. These are known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down over time and are shown to post long-term risks to people’s health.
Our bipartisan Jobs & Labor budget invests in greater economic security and opportunity for workers, small business, and families so everyone can have the chance to succeed once we move beyond COVID-19. To help small businesses bounce back from the pandemic, our budget invests $70 million in grants. As Minnesota families experience an increasing lack of affordable child care, we’ve come together to deliver a historic $8 million investment to expand child care across the state.
Most of the resources within the bipartisan Taxes bill are aimed at helping the workers and small businesses that experienced hardship during COVID-19. It accomplishes this by exempting businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and workers who received additional Unemployment Insurance benefits during the pandemic from state taxes, mirroring federal action. The legislation also expands the Working Family Tax Credit and creates a new Homeless Prevention Aid framework for counties.
If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to get your COVID-19 vaccine. As new variants continue to emerge, including the Delta variant, it’s critically important to have as many Minnesotans vaccinated as possible. Ramsey County has assembled lists of where the vaccine is available and other valuable information and resources. You can access all of the information on the county website.
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Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.